Education System and Subjective/ Objective Examinations:

Posted by Magellanic Cloud on August 30, 2006

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Education System:

In education system, subjects are classified as ‘sciences’ and ‘arts’. The actual difference is not that of ‘science’ and ‘arts’. The actual difference is that of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’.

Certain ‘arts’ can be sciences as well such as art of constructing multi-story buildings. Certain ‘objective’ subjects are neither ‘sciences’ nor ‘arts’ e.g. Islamiyat basically is an objective subject but it is neither science nor art. Similarly Law is also objective in nature but it is neither science nor art. ‘Art’ means practical application of whatever we know.

So the subjects are;

i. Objective Theories
ii. Subjective Theories
iii. Objective Arts
iv. Subjective Arts

Objective Theories:

i. Theories of Physical Sciences.
ii. Those theories of Social Sciences which are based on ‘laboratory method’ research method.
iii. Law
iv. Religious Code
v. Grammar etc.

Subjective Theories:

i. Philosophy
ii. Political Science etc.

Objective Arts:

Practical application of objectivity i.e. of any objective theory.

Subjective Arts:

These are fine arts, such as painting, poetry, literature etc.
Certain subjects have both the elements of subjectivity and objectivity such as Sociology, Anthropology, and Economics etc.

About Subjective/ Objective Examinations:

There is wide application of ‘objective type’ and ‘subjective type’ examinations in our education system. ‘Objective type’ and ‘subjective type’ are, in fact the two main forms of examinations. The classification of examinations in ‘objective type’ and ‘subjective type’, however, seems to have been made without any in depth consideration into the exact meanings of ‘subjectivity’ and ‘objectivity’. What is considered to be a ‘subjective type’ examination consists of such type of questions the answers to which are required to be given in descriptive form. And what is considered to be the ‘objective type’ examination, is usually in the format that asks questions and requires answers in the shape of (i) fill in the blanks, (ii) multiple choice questions, (iii) differentiate between true and false statements and (iv) short answers etc.

So the currently considered difference between ‘subjective type’ and ‘objective type’ examinations can be thought of that of ‘descriptive type’ and ‘non-descriptive type’ examinations. Subjective type is the ‘descriptive type’ examinations; whereas objective type is ‘non-descriptive examination’.

In my opinion, the real difference between ‘subjective type’ and ‘objective type’ examinations is not that of ‘descriptive type’ and ‘non-descriptive type’. The real difference, in my opinion, should be found in the fact whether the answers to the asked questions are required to be objectively verified or not. Thus if the answer to a question, in the examination, is required to be given in descriptive form but the contents of the answer have to be only some particular book material, then despite being the ‘descriptive type’ answer, this question is not a ‘subjective type’ question. This is, in fact an ‘objective type’ question because the contents of the answer are to be ‘objectively verified’ in this case. And the ‘objective evidence’ is that particular book material which has been required to be re-produced by this ‘objective type’ question. The actual book material, in this case, is the ‘external object’, knowable to everyone, and is the required standard for the contents of the answers to the ‘objective type’ question. If the contents of the answers are the same to that book material then it means that the answer is 100% accurate. It follows that rote-based theoretical (i.e. descriptive) type questions can be considered to be an extreme form of ‘objective type’ questions. For example, consider a pure rote-based question that requires a description of whatever is written in lets say page number 110 of a particular book. Currently this type of question would be considered ‘subjective type’ by the examining bodies because the answer has to be in the form of ‘description’. Actually this is an ‘objective type’ question because the contents of the answer are required to be checked and ‘verified’ with the standard wording of page number 110 of that particular book. Actual contents of page number 110 are to be used as ‘external object’ which is also the ‘objective evidence’ of the ‘accurate’ answer to this type of question. Some real examples can also be given in this respect. For example if the ‘subjective type question paper’ on the subject of ‘Business Taxation’ asks such question as to ‘describe’ the deductible expenses from property income, it means that the ‘descriptive answer’ to such a question must have to be the same as is written in the relevant sections of the taxation laws. It also means that the ‘objective evidence’ for the accuracy of the answer to this question would also be those relevant sections of the taxation laws. Since the answer is required to be verified with the ‘objective evidence’, so this question, which is included in ‘subjective type question paper’, actually is an ‘objective type question’. Similarly, if another ‘subjective type question paper’ on the subject of ‘International Accounting Standards’ asks such question as to ‘describe’ the requirements of International Accounting Standard-1 (i.e. IAS-1) for the presentation of financial statements, it also means that the ‘descriptive answer’ to this question must have to be the same to whatever is mentioned in IAS-1 on this issue. And similarly, the ‘objective evidence’ for the accuracy of the answer to this question would be the actual contents of IAS-1 which are relevant to this issue. And since this answer is also required to be verified with the ‘objective evidence’, so this question that happened to be included in a ‘subjective type question paper’ is also an ‘objective type question’. We can conclude, out of this discussion that all those questions, the answers to whom are to be verified with the contents of specified objective evidence, are the ‘objective type questions’ irrespective of the fact that the answer is required to be given in descriptive or non-descriptive form. Thus if questions are such that non-descriptive answers are to be required to be verified with particular or specified ‘objective evidence’, these questions are also ‘objective type’ questions in this case. For example if an incomplete statement (i.e. fill in the blank) left space for the tax rate applicable to a particular type of income and that empty space is required to be filled by the students, in this case this ‘fill in the blanks’ type question is a valid objective type question because the tax rate specified by the students shall be verified against the actual tax rate which is mentioned in the relevant sections of taxation laws. This question is ‘objective type’ not because it is a ‘fill in the blanks’ type of question. It is ‘objective type’ because what would be filled by the students shall be verified for its accuracy against particular or specified ‘objective evidence’.

Subjective type examinations, on the other hand would ask such questions the answers to whom are not required to be verified against particular or specific ‘objective evidence’. It does not necessarily mean that the answers would have to be objectively non-verifiable. The only meaning is that there is no particular requirement that answers should match only with exact particular facts. If we ask question such as “mention the date on which Pakistan Resolution was passed”, or in another question, what were the contents of Quid-e-Azam’s speech on the occasion when Pakistan Resolution was passed” etc. These are the examples of objective type questions because correct answers have to match with specific and particular facts. But if we ask the question that “what was the role of Pakistan Resolution in the final stages of freedom movement?” this would be a ‘subjective type’ question because answer to this question cannot exactly match with any particular fact. But even in this case if this ‘role’ is mentioned in some textbook and the answer to the question is required to be given as per the ‘facts’ that are mentioned in that textbook, the question would become an ‘objective type’ question. However, if there is no such requirement, then this is a ‘subjective type question’. The question is ‘subjective type’ not because the answer is to be given in descriptive form. It is subjective type question because the answer is not to be verified against particular and specific ‘objective evidence’. The answer, however should be supported by necessary (i.e. not ‘specific’ or ‘particular’) objective facts and by other supporting reasons. In this way the contents of the answer are not confined to only particular source of information. Objective type questions, whether or not descriptive, are always rote-based in nature. Whereas, description oriented subjective type questions cannot be considered to be rote based. It is also important to note that subjective type questions may not always be theoretical or description oriented. Close ended questions having yes/no options can be considered to be subjective type if answers are required to be chosen on the basis of personal feelings or information of the students. For example “Nasir Kazimi was the greatest poet of 20th century – yes/ No”. This typical yes/ no type question is not objective type question but is a subjective type question because the choice of answer shall be based on the personal feelings of students and not on the basis of any objective evidence. Similarly ‘fill in the blanks’ and other non-descriptive types of questions can also be subjective type in similar way. Non-descriptive subjective type questions also cannot be rote-based in nature. So we can say that objective type examinations are always rote-based whereas subjective type examinations are not rote-based.

Objective type examinations seem to be just useless. Due to their rote-based nature, objective type examinations are difficult to rightly attempt in examination room. But outside the examination room, the relevant ‘objective evidence’ is accessible to the students. Having full access to that ‘particular source of information’ (which is also the objective evidence), all the questions can be rightly attempted. There seem to be little logical difference between rote-memorization and copying material from an open book. So we should consider that there is also little logical difference between solving objective type questions inside and outside the examination room. A perfect rote-memory which is used inside examination room shall give the same result as shall be given by copying material from the open book outside the examination room. A student who copied from open book outside the examination room cannot be said to be having less relevant knowledge than to the student who used his perfect rote-memory inside the examination room. The student, who copied from open book, is deficient only in rote-memory and not in knowledge. In fact, ability to rightly attempt objective type questions while the book is open makes that student more efficient in practical situations because he do not need to waste his time in first memorizing the stuff and then implementing the same in practical situation. He only need to read the stuff carefully in order to develop an overall understanding, then he can implement the (objective) stuff while keeping the book open before him. I can put my own example in this respect. I bought a book on ‘Java scripting’. I only read the first chapter thoroughly and carefully. The summery of the complete structure of the language was given in the first chapter. I did not bother to try to memorize any syntax or detailed rules of the language. But then I successfully developed various java script based websites. I wrote the syntax while the relevant chapters of the book were open before me. I did this within one-month period of time. If I tried to memorize all the rules and syntax, it would certainly have taken various years because it is too much difficult to memorize such syntax. It also means that preparation for the useless objective type examination can be more time consuming than the preparation for the useful practical application. It also means that the student who rightly attempts the objective type examination outside the examination room can be more efficient and able than the one who rightly attempt objective type examination inside the examination room, on the basis of rote-memory.

Following are further points:

Þ Good subjective type examination asks personal opinions on particular issues. Also can require quoting some objective evidences or other supporting reasons etc.

Þ Subjective type examination cannot be rote based. It can lead towards acquiring new knowledge. Expansion in knowledge is possible in subjective type examinations. Expansion in knowledge is not possible in objective type examinations.

Þ Since answers to subjective type questions cannot be found in any particular or single source of information, so there is no fear of copying material by students in examination rooms. Due to same reasons, it is not possible to solve subjective type examination outside examination room while keeping some book open.

Þ Subjective type thesis work is the best subjective assignment. This activity needs to be promoted. In fact this activity can replace all types of written examinations.

Þ Objective type examinations cannot check conclusion drawing ability – it is possible only in subjective type examinations. So idea generation ability also cannot be checked in objective type examination.

Þ Case analysis (theoretical) is only objective type examination which also can measure analytical + conclusions drawing ability. i.e. case analysis can be objective in case if whatever to be concluded must have origins in the case information. Case analysis can also include subjective elements. In fact it is combination of both subjective and objective type etc.

Þ ‘Conceptual theoretical’ type examination is objective type in nature.


8 Responses to “Education System and Subjective/ Objective Examinations:”

  1. khaled nasser said

    thank you
    I think that the most important ideas as the following:
    sub. exam is easy to form but difficult to correct.
    obj. exam is easy to correct but difficult to form.

  2. HAWARD said


  3. khuram said

    @ Khaled nasser

    Thanks for your points…

    @ HAWARD

    I think main objectives of Education are:

    1- To convey existing knowledge to coming generations.

    2- To develop communication and interpersonal skills in students.

    3- To teach manners necessary for a better social life.

    4- To make students able to handle and deal with practical life matters.

    5- To make students able to analyze and do research in the particular field of knowledge.

    I accept that Education system does address to point number 5 also. But one important objective missing in the existing Education system IS TO DEVELOP CREATIVE ABILITIES OF STUDENTS.

    The kind of research that Education system undertakes dosen’t fall under the ambit of “creativity”. Educational research is a kind of “procedural matter”. Students only collect and analyze some new data on a set pattern. This type of research cannot be called as creative research. So to induce “creative” abilities in students also should be one of the main tasks of Education system.


  4. Why a debate on means to express?
    Education does not mean we all time express systematically like roboots,education needs understanding the situation and handling it adequately. this handling should be a test for the individual.

  5. tariq said

    i want to know the drawbacks of pakistani examination system

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